‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ Creators Explain Their ‘Shocking’ Decision to Change the Plot Entirely

TheWrap magazine: How BenDavid Grabinski and Bryan Lee O’Malley brought Netflix’s animated “left-turn sequel” to life

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

BenDavid Grabinski is a fan of offbeat sequels.

“I’ve spent a long time being in rooms pitching very left-turn sequels for preexisting IP and movies and TV shows,” the writer-producer told TheWrap. “And usually, people are like, ‘No, that’s too bold. Can you just do something much simpler?’ And then they don’t hire me.”

But in the case of Netflix series “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Grabinski found a kindred spirit in Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of the original “Scott Pilgrim” comic book series, which was adapted into a live-action movie directed by Edgar Wright in 2010.

For inspiration, Grabinski and O’Malley watched every episode of David Lynch’s brilliant if polarizing 2018 return to his cult television series “Twin Peaks,” as well as movies like “Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time,” “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” and “Ocean’s Twelve.” “We both respond to big swings. ‘Scott Pilgrim’ was a big swing. And I think what we realized was we wanted to have something that felt as shocking as the first time you read ‘Scott’ or the first time you saw the movie,” Grabinski said.

Together, the duo asked themselves: How do we make a new “Scott Pilgrim” series not normal?

The answer was to take familiar elements of the comic book and the movie, namely the characters of Scott Pilgrim (voiced by Michael Cera, reprising his role) and Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, ditto) and inverse the action. Instead of following a subtly toxic man in his 20s who faces down the “evil exes” of his current girlfriend, what if he died during the first fight, leaving it to Ramona to sort out the relationships and trauma from her past? Only, you know, funny. Almost everything you expect or remember from earlier incarnations of “Scott Pilgrim” has been flipped on its head.

The idea to make Ramona the main character (and for one of her exes, voiced by Chris Evans, to play Scott Pilgrim in a movie version of the guy’s life) came about organically when Grabinski and O’Malley were discussing story. “Instead of saying, ‘That is stupid, don’t do it,’ he said, ‘Oh, I love that,’” Grabinski recalled. “And then we started mocking [it up] and it went from just being us goofing around to, within a matter of days, a formal thing.”

For O’Malley, this subversion of expectations harkens back to the graphic novel, whose “first readers just were expecting a straightforward, slice-of-life, indie-rock thing, and then it becomes this goofy video game comedy,” he said. “I wanted to pull the rug out. I’ve always loved doing that kind of thing, and we had this audience that was potentially going to watch a show. It’s like, how much fun can we possibly have here?”

Radical alterations sometimes end with fans feeling betrayed. There are still debates raging over “Twin Peaks.” And don’t get anyone started on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” But there was none of that with “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.” Critics liked it and audiences tuned in. 

“We didn’t expect awards attention. But the chatter alone [was satisfying],” O’Malley shared. “Everything gets dragged into a culture war now and fortunately, we seem to have dodged most of those bullets. People enjoy the twists and the fun and were along for the ride. That’s all we wanted.”

Grabinski agreed: “I was thinking about the audience every single second of it, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be correct. In my gut, I felt like people would understand that this came from a place of enthusiasm and love for the world of ‘Scott Pilgrim’ and not us taking the piss out of it. But there was always a chance that people were going to revolt and think that we were jerks and we were just being trolls. And, you know, sometimes we are, but the macro story of this is something that came from a place of love.”

This story first ran in the Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read more from the issue here.

Gary Oldman photographed by Molly Matalon for TheWrap
Gary Oldman photographed by Molly Matalon for TheWrap


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